This I Believe

Elizabeth - Detroit, Michigan
Entered on November 28, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

THIS I BELIEVE

Every day, a new flavor bubbles up in the great American melting pot.

With a dash of DNA here…

An ethnic trait there…

And a rich recipe of race, culture and religion…

A beautiful buffet of humanity delights the senses.

You’ll find me in the dessert section— a one-of-a-kind, white chocolate fondue.

My genetic mix got stirred amidst the searing heat of the civil rights movement. I was a bun in the oven of a black woman who partnered with a white man to cook up a sweet treat for society’s racial palate.

But like blond brownies and white pepper, the brown part of my heritage adds flavor — not color.

So it’s with amusement… and angst… that I watch people squint at me… as if reading my ingredients label. I can almost hear them: “Hmmmm… it says here, she’s a gourmet blend of English, French, African American, Italian, Cherokee…”

But in some recipes, one drop of a certain flavor defines the whole dish.

The same goes for the genetic swirl that is multiracial America.

“You’re a black woman,” declared my friend, who is African American, over lunch. “Your mom is black, so you’re black. Period.”

In the window of the restaurant, my long, yellow curls and white face superimposed over the people walking past. I literally saw myself in the human kaleidoscope of color and culture that is so beautifully the essence of America.

I loved that moment so much, I tingled.

But the moment was bittersweet.

Because my friend saw only black or white.

“Black is a cultural thing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you look like. You’re black on the inside.”

Hours later, a Caucasian woman insisted the opposite:

“You look like a white woman. Certainly no one would look at you and think you’re black!”

Sirens on the street shrieked like a tea kettle… my racial identity came to a boil.

Black!

White!

Black-White-black-white…

All the colors spun in my head as if I were at the ice cream counter, with a chorus chanting, “Pick one flavor! Now!”

Except that choice would forever define my life, and rob me of my delicious ingredients.

NO! I REFUSE TO CHOOSE!

Instead, I will savor the flavors of vanilla and chocolate and butterscotch and caramel!

Mmmmm, mmmm!

But my exterior is simply an airy appetizer

for the entrée of Elizabeth.

And this I believe: it is my spirit that defines me.

If you close your eyes and feel the loving energy that I radiate like warm sunshine — that is Elizabeth. This is not a color or a race or a culture.

No, my spirit manifests in actions.

Being a loving mother, daughter, sister, friend.

Writing and speaking to promote harmony.

Teaching children and adults to write.

Exercising and eating healthy to inspire wellness in others.

This is my spirit. It is coated in white chocolate fondue. But on the inside, my essence is the invisible color of love.

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